Well, the Sixers have started off their season 0-4, as many figured, and there’s been some good, some bad, and some very ugly. Jahlil Okafor is already establishing himself as a pro talent, an undrafted free agent is keeping the team together, and Jerami Grant is making some terrible decisions.
1. T.J. McConnell
T.J. McConnell might look like your cousin who you’re pretty sure still works at that gas station, but the kid can play. As an undrafted free agent, he’s accumulated 32 assists in his first four career games, which is more than Jason Kidd, Michael Carter-Williams, Gary Payton, Elfrid Payton, and Kenny Smith through their first four games. If you break it down to assists per minute (since McConnell played a lot fewer minutes than many of the others on the list), he’s a better assister through his first four career games than John Wall, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby, Nick Van Exel, and Damian Lillard. Not terrible company in that super small sample size. Last night’s 7/12/9 line was the first of its kind (at least 7 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds) by a player in his first four games since Jason Kidd’s 10/11/9 in 1994.
76ers rookie T.J. McConnell is the 1st player in NBA history with at least 12 assists in 2 of his first 4 career games (@EliasSports).
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 5, 2015
He’s shooting .529 from the floor (on only 17 shots), and has only 7 turnovers to go with those 32 assists. At times, he even looks Nash-ian. It’s very early, but the Sixers may have found a pass-first point guard worth sticking with for a little while.
2. Jahlil Okafor
As Kyle pointed out earlier, Jahlil Okafor has come out of the gate showing off his NBA caliber skills [editor’s note: tempted to use post skills, but there’s so much more than that]. Using the same first-four-games qualifier, Okafor’s 81 points puts him in some incredible company:
Dating back to 1963, Jahlil Okafor and Kevin Durant are the only teenagers to score 20+ points in 3 of their first 4 career games.
— Max Rappaport (@MaxRappaport) November 5, 2015
And (small sample size warning about everything here) his free throw shooting, thought to be his biggest offensive weakness, is sitting above 80%. McConnell may be the glue that’s holding the team together on the floor, but Okafor is the actual team.
3. Jerami Grant
What happened? He’s flailing around on defense, making terrible decisions on offense, and just looks generally lost out there, which is to say, he looks like a Sixer. At least five times – twice, frustratingly, at the home opener – Grant has gotten the ball close to the rim, in traffic, while standing still, and gone up for some kind of poorly planned tomahawk slam. Every. Single. Time. He does this. And every time the ball has been forced from his child-like clutches. There is zero photographic evidence of it on USA Today, Getty, or Twitter. I assume that’s because it’s too ugly and embarrassing (Jerami, your dunk attempts, woof). But be on the lookout. I’m sure you can catch three or four more before he gets a handle on things.
4. Missing Open Threes
With Okafor as the only consistent scoring option down low, the rookie been getting double-teamed frequently right off of the bat. Add his his skills as a passer into that, and the Sixers should be seeing (and nailing) a ton of open threes. But if you check out Twitter during any game, you’d think Hollis Thompson is a card-carrying member of Local 1 with all of the bricks he’s laying.
I am a Hollis Thompson defender. The dude shot 40.1% from three in his first two seasons in the league. He’ll be in some good company if he does that again this year. But he’s streaky. He seems to miss more wide-open threes than he makes, and it stands out. But, that might just be the eye-test.
When defenders are 4-6 feet away – that’s considered “open” – the Sixers hit 26% of their three-point attempts. That’s 7th-worst in the NBA. Overall from behind the arc, they’re shooting 30% (8th worst). But when defenders are more than 6 feet away – considered “wide open” – they’re shooting 44%, 8th best in the NBA. 79% of the Sixers’ 3PT attempts are some form of “open,” which is bad enough for 8th worst in the league. All this is a way of saying that the Sixers are hitting their wide open threes, but they don’t get that many chances to do so.
In the next few games the Sixers face off against the Cavaliers and then the Magic, Bulls, and Raptors. See you back here when they’re 1-7.